Far from being a south-of-the-U.S.-Mexico-border problem alone, at least 1,000 U.S. cities reported the presence of at least one of four Mexican cartels in 2010. Meanwhile, south of the border, the machinery of drug creation and facilitation grind away, spitting out addicts in the U.S. and more than 50,000 dead bodies in Mexico since 2006. The cartels are looking to spread their tentacles wider.
At the end of last month, a video emerged of members of the Mexican Gulf cartel using machetes to behead five men from the rival Zetas gang. The month before, a Zetas gang member dumped 49 mutilated bodies in a northern Mexico town square.
This week alone, seven police officers died when they were ambushed by a drug cartel, and the newspaper El Manana, in the city of Nuevo Laredo, announced it was stopping coverage of the drug-related bloodshed after grenades damaged its offices for the second time this year (in one recend incident, 14 severed heads were dumped on the street close to Nuevo Laredo’s town hall in ice boxes).
In Mexico, murders, beheadings, kidnappings and torture are all too common as gangs protect their turf and try to increase their share of a drugs trade worth an estimated $13 billion annually. In the past few years, authorities have killed or captured 22 of the highest-ranking drug generals and seized more than $10.9-billion worth of drugs. There have been more than 55,000 drug-related killings and more than 6,000 disappearances during President Felipe Calderon’s six-year offensive against the cartels.
But a recent report by the U.S. Department of Justice says drug demand is increasing and Mexican cartels – who dominate the supply, trafficking and wholesale distribution of the trade – are positioned to meet the rise and keep the drugs flowing across the U.S. border. The seven Mexican drug cartels will solidify their positions with U.S. gangs who sell the heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine on the streets of more than a thousand U.S. cities, says the report. The gangs’ proficiency will ensure “that the drugs remain readily available in markets throughout the United States.”
The Drugs and Where They Come From
Methamphetamines have become a sophisticated international business, which includes securing supplies from as far away as Asia, processing the methamphetamine in large, elaborate labs in Mexico, and transporting the drugs across the U.S. border via tunnels, commercial vehicles or human mules. Mexico is estimated to supply 70% of the methamphetamine consumed In the United States.
Mexican marijuana production is concentrated in nine states: Sinaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco, Michoacan, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chihuahua, Sonora and Durango; Guerrero, Nayarit and Michoacan are the traditional production areas, but U.S. intelligence reports say large cartels have shifted their grow-ops to avoid increasing eradication efforts by the Mexican government and to get closer to the United States. The cartels also operate large, open-air-grow-ops in more northerly states, such as Oregon and Washington. There are reports cartels are increasingly building connections to groups east of the Mississippi River.
Cocaine is the most lucrative of illegal drugs. The United Nations estimates that sales of the drug net $88-billion a year on the street. Most shipments of cocaine involve numerous parts of the cartel federations. While the largest federations were once Colombian, now it appears they are Mexican. The UN estimates two-thirds of the cocaine that left the Andean region of South America for the United States In 2008 passed through the hands of Mexican cartels.
Most Colombian heroin flows to the United States directly via commercial airlines – primarily to New York and Miami. The Central America-Mexican corridor appears to serve as a secondary transit route for South American heroin. The drug is moved by cartels to northern Mexico for smuggling across the U.S.’s southwest border in vehicles or on foot.